Halloween is now ten days passed. I know this because there is no longer any bite-sized bad-for-you-food on the reception desks in offices throughout downtown SF.
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I know this because the decorations are up and the holiday music is a blarin’.
A bit more than fifty days remain in the year. I know this because I used Excel to subtract today’s date from 1/1/2013 (or should I have used 12/31/12? I fluffed it, and avoided that whole issue entirely, by going with the “bit more” construction . . . ).
All of which means that we are in the ultimate, end-of-year time-soak.
Days will no longer be 24 hours. Weeks will no longer be 7 days. Minutes will be slightly shorter than 60 seconds.
And, before you know it, it’ll be 2013.
Because time, as we know it. . .
. . . compresses after Halloween.
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We are, then, on the end-of-year, sliding-down-the-playground-slide part of the year when we inexorably find ourselves running out of year and struggling to get things done.
This is the time of year, then, when a lot of folks don’t want to take on big projects, such as, for many, the perennially-on-the-To-Do-List-and-never-gotten-around-to project of finally taking a hold a’ their financial life, having their way with it, and then making of it what they will and, in general, overall-improving it (but: for other folks, when the time’s right, the time’s right, and if that describes how you feel right now with respect to starting the process of proactively improving your overall financial health, well then please do begin!).
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There’s one part of that financial-heath-improvement process thang that can’t wait all that much longer, though, which is end-of-year tax planning. It’s, um, gotta be done by end-of-year, ya know?
The question to ask yourself, then, is whether you want to proactively tweak what your 1040 for this year will look like — how much tax you will owe for 2012 — or whether you want to let it unfold as it will, come what may.
For some folks there’s a whole lot of 1040-tweaking they can do; self-employed people fit into this category, as do people who have investments outside of retirement accounts. I’d also add to this category people who are having a 2012 that is not like their normal years (e.g., they are making much more, or much less, income than usual). And then there are lots of other things that can make a 1040 tweakable as well (this is tax stuff, so there are lots of nooks and crannies that are not easily summarized).
But just about all of it has to be done before 1/1/13.
For other folks there’s not much, if anything, they can do to tweak their 1040 and dial-in how much tax they owe. If you’ve been employed all year and have no investment accounts outside of retirement accounts, and if you do not own your shelter or make a six-figure income, then this is probably where you fit into the mix.
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If you think you have some 1040-tweaking that you might be able to do, or if you are not sure, then, please, get ye to a tax helper or get ye smartened up on your own. You owe it to yourself, and I mean that fairly literally: you owe to yourself the dollars you might well save and you do not owe them to Uncle Sam.
But, ah, scheduling. The end-of-year bugaboo.
I have a plan. And plans — good plans, anyway — always have dates attached to them, right?
* * *
First, you need to get into gear on this stuff before December 1st. That’s two Saturdays after Thanksgiving — just three from now — so, please, do take at least a baby step on your 1040-tweaking by the end of the week after Thanksgiving.
Your baby step can be, e.g., looking at last year’s tax return and trying to figure out whether you left any money on the table (yes, this is well beyond the capability of most human beings) or, more practically, having a quick Q&A with someone in your life who can help you with your 1040-tweaking.
If no one in your life fits that bill, then please do call. I’m not a last-mile tax guy, i.e., I do not help people fill out their taxes, and do not serve as people’s tax expert, but I can usually help folks figure out whether they have a 1040 that is likely to be tweakable or not, and help them figure out next steps. And I’d be happy to do those things for you, gratis.
Following that baby step, the schedule is to have all of your end-of-year tax planning completed by Saturday, December 15, 2012 — with all your To-Do’s stemming from your planning either done by then or cued-up by then, awaiting answers to the questions about what will unfold by year-end as the Powers that Be do their light-fandango skipping with the so-called Fiscal Cliff (that so-called modifier seems to be taking hold today in the sources I read . . . ) and try to reach some sort of agreement.
* * *
So please get on it!
There are real dollars involved, as in dollars that you will soon have in your pocket that otherwise would’ve been in Uncle Sam’s.
818 words (about a nine minute read — 17 if you also watch the Whiter Shade of Pale link and watch/read the Contacts page link)